To capture moments that put me on a high...

Funny, how one week I was sitting at home watching the ad campaign of 'Malaysia, Truly Asia' on the telly and the other I was staring at the rather imposing twin towers which are apparently 279 times my height. Though we didn't get to go to the skybridge, because our tour guide didn't happen to book the tickets ahead of time.

The twin towers, by day:
The Prada window inside the Suria KLCC:
And a peek at the towers by night, from in between the Hotel Nikko buildings:

The same day, we rushed from the twin towers to a shopping mall called The Weld. My friend P wanted to buy handbags from there cause there was quite a deal at hand. She bagged three of them for just 100 RM (ringgits). I had to literally keep my hands tied down, as I had quite finished with shopping by then. Which is why, I have resolved to keep a tight rein on my impulsive and compulsive shopping. At least I would not have to suffer from shopping pangs on future outings.

While returning to the towers (where we were supposed to meet the rest of the group and guide D) we had a nasty experience. We hopped into a cab. I mentioned that the Twin Towers were our destination and P happened to say Suria KLCC (which is basically the same because the mall is within the towers), when the man behind the wheel turned back and bit out: "I am confused about where you want to go." He was a bad 'un, that one. Whirling back he asked us where we were from and in a trice asked us to just get down. It was the offensive manner in which he spoke that raised my hackles. But I guess for every good experience you have, you do come across a bad one.

One evening we had the chance to walk down to Central Market or Pasar Seni. It was just perfect. I love to explore a place by walking through it. After I had shopped like crazy at this departmental store called Watson's, I came across these street musicians strumming the guitar and singing romantic numbers. With them was this little kid with a small guitar. He was adorable. So I went up to him. He was accompanied by this cute young hippy guy (not in the pic) who was quite a flirt. He told me that if I wanted to take the little fellow, I would have to take the big fella with me as well!

While these musicians were on with their strummings, young guys and girls were seated around enjoying a breezy cool evening. An ideal setting for sitting down with friends and doing nothing. Not even chatting probably.

Here are some ganeshas I saw at the Central Market that I was totally enchanted by:

(Clockwise) Canopy Ganesha, Teaching Ganesha, Bathing Ganesha, Mirror Ganesha and Sleeping Ganesha.

A woman selling yummy eatables on the pavement outside Sogo Mall:

This is a cafe outside the Sogo mall area where I tried Mee Goreng (spicy fried chicken noodles with the leafy local vegetable sawi and doused in soya sauce). The cafe owner was a Malay who was just very amused by us. I don't know why though.

The cutest chef I have laid my eyes on:

One night I went to Zouk (check out its facade with the lovely lighting that changed from blue to magenta and thereon), the hippest nightclub in KL, with the despicable Mr D.

That was the night he decided that he could hit on me. Even after I had warned him that the fact that I was talking and dancing with him doesn't mean that I am easy. The git had the guts to say later that he wanted me to put my arms around him because there were four girls trying to seduce him. I wish I could have flicked out a mirror and made him take a look at himself.

Inside Zouk:

A shot from the car, of Selangor, the city of lights:

We set out early in the morning on day four for Putrajaya, the venue for the Flora Fest. There were hardly any security hassles once we were in through the initial barrier. No checking. Nothing. After all, the place has been lucky so far as to have not been hit by terrorists.*Touchwood* It was a refreshing change.
These lovely girls wearing orchid garlands were waiting with pretty bouquets for the king and the queen:
It was kind of equivalent to the displays on our republic day. The individual states like Sabah, Johor, Selangor, KL, Terrenganu all had their flower displays. Even KFC had a display. Check out the KFC float:

With lovely music playing in the background and colourfully dressed men and women dancing, it was absolutely stunning:

The national mosque of Putrajaya. It was so pretty. I wore a bright pink huge jubba to get inside. That's when they decided that I could not get in because I was a non-Muslim. It hurt. The driver S who accompanied me there apologised profusely. It was touching considering the fact that it was something he could not help. Neither could I.

Just married!

Yes, this couple had just got married at the mosque. They made a charming picture in their shining white clothes. The guy is wearing a sampin (skirt), the baju malayu (kurta) and a songkok (cap), while the lady is in a kabaya (dress) along with the dudong (headscarf).

Aha, this one is a shot of the sting ray.

Inside the KL Towers itself there is an aquaria called Aquaria KLCC. Where I got to touch a star fish (rather gingerly) and a shark that looked more like an eel (the reaction here was a shudder). And of course I got to see all kinds of creatures -- green sea turtles, hawksbill turtles, bamboo sharks, electric cat fishes, tree frogs, treetop serpents, tarantulas -- very eeky creatures most of them. The cutest of them was the common marmosets which were very human I must say. They kept on playing with each other. By that time, I was out of battery, so the digi cam wouldn't work, much to my dismay. Hence I missed out shots of the beautiful leopard shark and a massive black thing called the Tapa fish. The latter was omnious. It was resting quietly in a corner of the aquarium. "Mind you, that quiet demeanour is deceptive. It was bought by these locals from the rainforests. They had to carry it and bring it here. It was possible because it can live for an hour or two without water," said Fiona, the pretty PR for the Aquaria.
Now let's come to the most adventurous part of it all. It was the day we drove from KL to Penang. A tiring road trip, but when we stopped at a snake temple on the way to the hotel, here's what I saw:

This huge lady was open as was the one in the background and another python (not in the pic). This python seemed awake, while the other two appeared dead to the world. The reason being the fact that they were shedding their skins. What I did next never ceases to amaze me.
I touched the lady python.
It took me a good five minutes to actually touch her (you cannot imagine what a phobia I have of reptiles. I get nightmares of crocodiles and snakes with their slimy selves trying to get at me). The owner, a Chinese man called Chew, really coaxed me in to patting her. But when I touched her, she hardly felt slimy or the like. It was exactly like the way those smooth crocodile skin bags feel. After that Chew urged me to wrap her around my neck and get a pic taken. Now that I couldn't do. Lady python had her last meal some three weeks back.

Then there was Naja Naja:

This cobra was initially lying quietly in a corner with its mate. Till my idiotic group guys wanted it poked because they wanted nice pictures. "Aisa kijiye ki ye phan phailaye na!" said Mr J, which was translated duely to Chew by Mr J's friend, Mr S. But the funny part was that all of them went and stood behind the open cage, while I who is a complete coward, stood in front of it and went click, click, click, as it rose up with a hiss thanks to a good few pokes from Chew.
What really made me feel nice was holding a baby bunny and feeling it burrow in my hands. This talkative little 6-year-old Chinese girl, Zhiling Teow, who stays on the farm with her parents and uncle Chew, is holding the baby for me.
Just a feel-good picture by the pool at the Bayview resort in Penang:

A delicious lunch at The Happy Garden restaurant in Penang. The owner, Sherin, is a former Miss Hainan, who prepared this authentic Hainanese meal for us. So there were stir fried veggies spiced up with garlic, chicken dry fried in chilli and cashewnuts, claypot tofu and sizzling prawns served along with special Chinese tea.

More food! This time it was at the open eating area in Padang Kota in Penang. In the yellow bowl is the Laksa (rice noodles in tangy fish gravy), the blue plate has the Kampung (vegetarian fried rice and noodles cooked in soya sauce, garnished with an omelette) and in the orange dish is some Javanese noodles (cooked in a thick brown peanut sauce along with fish balls and prawns).

I especially enjoyed this meal because I was eating out with only guide D and driver S. The others were dining at Pizza Hut after we had just had a huge row between spoilt Ms S and D. Her mother even called up D threatening him with his job. It left him quite speechless as it left me ashamed of this group that I was stuck in.

A guy on with cooking satays:

This is the evening before the morning we set out for home. I took a real long walk on the beach by myself. And it was refreshing though I did feel a bit lonely at moments.

Whoa! It sure was a marathon post. As you can see, it got me going.


A big hallo!

I was sitting in the middle of this ballroom yesterday night. It was done up in red right from the luxurious drapes to the woman dressed in red silk dresses. Yes, it was a pre-Valentine bash thrown by a cosmetics company that launched its new age miracle cream. Cyrus Sahukar, who was hosting the show, described the place rather aptly -- he called it a giant tomato.

But be it a giant tomato or not, they played the most mushy soundtracks from Roxette, Savage Garden, Seal... You might cringe at the thought of it, but paired with red wine and cheese croquettes, it was a heady combination alright. It was the moment when I thought of all my loves -- past and present. And how futile they always turn out to be.

And however much I might snigger at the concept of Valentine's Day, it feels sad and pretty left out to watch couples linking up hands and revelling in each other's company. Wonder what that feels like.

Before I fall into the blues, let me talk about a trip that I went on to Malaysia. It was magic all the way.

In seven days, it felt like I had lived a lifetime of happiness. However it was a sponsored trip by the tourism board of Malaysia, so I was stuck with other journalists who were a shame to be with. There were six of us altogether -- three girls and three men.

Two paunchy middle-aged men were only interested in drinking and making us wait, without fail, in the hotel lobby every morning and evening. The third man was someone who was so well-travelled that he couldn't stop talking about Italy and Mauritius, that too with a fake accent. His grammar might have been occasionally screwed up, but hey he had an accent! Now among the girls, there was this madam who was flaunting her wealth besides the unwholesome sight of an ample paunch and the crack of her butt (thanks to a low-rise jeans and a short top). "I own three luxury cars in Delhi -- a Baleno, an Accent and a Corolla," she told our first tour guide. This guy was loaded with ready wit. He insisted, "We'll take you to one of our luxury car showrooms and you can take home another one." The fifth of us, this girl with a travel magazine, was the only one I got along with.

Now that I've let out my co-traveller woes to my heart's content, I must confess that the place itself was perfectly cosmopolitan. There were no lecherous men on the streets or anywhere, the people were very well-behaved, the public loos were spick n' span, the buses were swanky, the cabs were all air conditioned and ran by meter. Add to that a tropical breezy weather san humidity and you had the perfect place on earth. I was totally won over by the ample opportunity to do cheap shopping. So in the first two days, I exhausted my budget and ended up buying a huge travellers' bag to stuff everything in!

If we start at the beginning, the Kuala Lumpur International Airport is fantastic. There are aerotrains that go right into the main terminal. Now on the way from the airport to the Hotel Nikko, which was quite a long drive (a one-hour one) flanked by zillions of palm oil trees, I was a bit taken aback by the sight of fields of dead palms standing out among the lush greenery. The guide pointed out that they kill their palms when the trees are around 30 years old by pouring kerosene oil down them. "To do away with the less productive ones," he said. Sounded morbid, even though it makes sense to them I guess.

The miles of unhindered greenery gave way soon to skyscrapers and beautiful Islamic buildings, Moorish edifices and old Raj style buildings. The next day we visited the king's palace which is also called the istana.

The palace grounds

We were of course not allowed in. So all we could do was click pictures from outside, of royal guards on horseback (who change every two hours) and a colourful outer garden (changes every three months). The king here changes too! Every five years. The present king is Tunku Nizan Zainal and he happens to be the youngest king so far at 44. But he's a shy one. Apparently he doesn't meet anyone and even appointments do not work with him.

Our next few stops were the ASEAN Garden and a war memorial in the same compound.

Check out the bronze soldiers in the War Memorial -- they symbolize victory, bravery and courtesy

What I loved especially was the Moorish style architecture of the National Railway building:

Opposite it was the massive KTM Berhad, the railway administration building, designed by E C Norman, a Brit architect:

The National Mosque itself was unconventional. None of the usual domes that you associate with a mosque. It has a Javanese design with the main hall topped off by an open umbrella roof in a beautiful turquoise blue:

I think each building looked stunning, be it the National Library, the National Museum or be it the 'Sexy lady of Kuala Lumpur' which is actually the building of the Haj Foundation.

Where we went for lunch in the city centre actually was the icing on the cake. It was the Menara Kuala Lumpur (KL Tower) with a revolving restaurant. From atop the tower it was a lovely bird's eye view of the city.

These two old ladies admiring the view of the city while lunching at KL Towers were rather endearing:

Some miscellaneous pix from within the buffet area of KL Towers

This lobster shed its shell in the aquarium here apparently in the 1990s:

This cake is apparently three years old:

The buffet was very sumptuous as well.

The dessert counter:

Only I got excited by the sight of this jar stuffed with what looked like fried papads. I greedily piled a few on my plate, when I was warned that I might not like them. By that time, I had even popped one into my mouth. I can't tell you the incredible reaction it had on me. The papads were fried in fish oil. Not that I am a fish hater. I am a Bengali after all. But stinking fishes are the limit. I must say, that otherwise, the fishes were cooked very well in lemongrass oil and had a lovely flavour.

The evening was spent shopping in an arcade opposite our hotel and then soaking my feet in hot water. They were as sore as hell.

Part 2 of the trip follows in the next post. Kind of running short on time.